Friday, April 25, 2014

Theory 39: There is no such thing as natural beauty.

Just after I published Theory38: Orthopedic bras aren't sexy. Part DDDD, then H, then J, I went for my first mammogram. You know, when you turn the perfect age of forty, you get to go on all sorts of adventures; medical personnel get to squeeze and probe parts they’ve never squeezed or probed before. Yippee!

I’m not going to lie. I was nervous. I am not na├»ve, nor am I immune to tragedy. Sometimes I panic about certain things because those things have actually happened to me. I’m no better/different/more important than the three co-workers who have survived or are battling breast cancer. Susan G. Komen Foundation is a marketing machine; pink is everywhere. Everywhere. Even Tall Child’s best friend, Character with Character, said, as he lay in his bedroom, dying from colon cancer, “I am sick of those pink ribbons. Where’s the stuff about colon and stomach cancer? Huh?” My dear friend Baton Swiper works year-round to fundraise through our local Komen office out of respect for her beloved later mother-in-law.

So, on Good Friday, I spent the morning at the local breast center. I handed over my insurance card and turned to find a seat with other pensive patients. I saw a glimmer of hope in a framed, signed photo of none other than my hero Dolly. Right there in the lobby. I had just written about her that same morning! The queen of boobies, creativity, and positive energy was there. I felt better, calmer, until the x-ray technician squeezed Pacific for just a smidge longer than she had Atlantic and said, “I just want to make sure I got a really good picture.” Gulp. Thence came a wave of anxiety. I cried all the way to my car. I knew it.

During my drive to the breast center, I had felt a strong premonition that I’d be back, long before mammogram 2015. My premonition was accurate.

Nurses called me Monday and asked me to come back. The MOMENT I walked into the lobby, I ran smack into my young teaching colleague who is fighting breast cancer. The first thing I thought when I saw her was, “Beautiful.” She wore a head covering, so all I could see was her face. Her skin was flawless. Beautiful face. We enjoyed a quick academic discussion of school, causes of cancer (speculation), and her treatments. Beautiful brain. She cheered me on when I explained I’d been called back in for a second look. She cheered me on. Beautiful spirit.

The routine mammogram machine is like a plastic Panini maker; it’s a gentle squeeze for someone my size, but not too grilling. The “call-back” appointment was a bit more involved, with two distinct procedures. The first is like a George Foreman Grill: it optimizes health, squeezes out the fat, and focuses on one big chunk of meat. Think slow, deliberate hammer to red clay. The second procedure is like a pasta-maker. Dough ball to a grinder. I had to lean over and drop Pacific down between to plastic boxes. The x-ray technician got under me and tucked and pulled Pacific into place. I said, “I wonder whose view is better. Yours or mine.” The boxes pressed together and turned the dough ball into an egg noodle. Ouch.

I was also nervous about my just-scheduled breast reduction surgery. On my way out, I visited the “Complementary Boutique.” It’s a lobby gift shop that sells all things girly and cancer patient (earrings, blouses, wigs, swimsuits, orthopedic bras, devotionals). The clerk asked me how she could help me and I said, “I know this sounds shallow, but do you have a fake C breast I can see and feel? I’m getting reduction surgery soon and just want to see how I might end up.” I continued, “I just don’t want to look in the mirror and think, ‘Who is that?’ or ‘Where’d I go?’ or ‘I look crazy different.’” She didn’t have any fake breasts lying around. She had something better. Peace of mind. She said, “I used to look in the mirror and see everything that was wrong with me. Now I look in the mirror and say to myself, ‘Look how strong you are.” She’s a cancer survivor. She asked who was doing my surgery. I told her. She said, “He is AWESOME! He did my reconstruction and he is a perfectionist.” That’s what my friend Flower Child calls a God Wink – when you are worried and wondering and God answers in a quick, poignant sign. Dolly’s photo was a God Wink, too. I left with confidence in my surgeon and a renewed admiration for womankind.

34J-long-story-short, I’m okay. I texted workplace BFF, Red Hot Backspace (who is a breast cancer survivor), that my doctors found one tennis shoe and a six pack of Miller Lite. Truly, I have a cluster of cysts near the Jersey Shore and one rogue cyst flying solo in the South Pacific.  

The sales lady at Complementary Boutique and my sick, but strong teaching colleague exemplify today’s theory: There is no such thing as natural beauty. Okay, we are born with certain attributes, yes, but I’d like to address this theory through the mix of three human aspects: physical beauty, academic beauty, and spiritual beauty. It takes many years to become a pretty person!

As my grandmama, Buddy, used to say, “Pretty is as pretty does.” Behavior relates to attractiveness. Delicious used to counsel me, regarding dating, “If you start liking him, he’ll get cuter.” So true!

As a child, I didn’t have all the clothes I thought I needed. I didn’t really want to shop, but I did want to fit in fashion-wise. Instead, I wore flannel shirts and thick Lee jeans from Goody’s store in Sevierville. In my sophomore yearbook picture, I’m wearing a Les Miserable t-shirt tucked into hand-me-down pants (handed down from a junior at my same school). A few years ago, Tall Child and I were in a personal recession brought on by the following: a tornado (new roof), female problems, infertility treatments, Sharky’s battle with the gym floor (his two permanent front teeth lost that fight), college expenses for me to get certified to teach, and finally, adopting Gnome. Anyway, my wardrobe and our home took a beating. In that time, I stumbled across one of my favorite Bible verses:

Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Luke 12:27 (KJ)

Lily near the barn on The Crippled Beagle Farm.

I needed that verse in high school. So many girls need that verse in high school. Do I say it to students? I’ll never tell. Actually, I did in Theory 23: God and prayer are most definitely in schools. Nowadays, I’m looking for a uniform and just try to look clean and covered. Ha! I’ve evolved.

Delicious has always battled her weight, but she’s also extremely confident. I pondered this unique aspect of her personality and asked her for clarification. She explained, “Bug, I think that when you have a pretty face, you don’t really notice how fat you are. Take a look at all those runners on the side of the road. They are skinny with big noses and need lipstick. Delta Burke is beautiful and she is almost as fat as I am.”

Red Hot Backspace co-wrote Theory 29: There are right ways and wrong ways to date online because she felt a kind need to help singletons navigate cyberspace romance. A few days ago, she said, “Dating at my age [of 50] is not easy.” She referenced scars, both physical and emotional, that must be explained. But I see her in a different light. I see her as someone who has learned great lessons, triumphed over tragedy, and holds three degrees. Her sense of humor is the light in my day and she is SMART. What a lovely package! No explanations needed.

Here’s the deal: Beauty grows from tragedy, experience, and education. Life may wear our bodies down, but it makes us spiritually beautiful and of much more service to one another. If that doesn’t summarize today’s theory for you, maybe Sharky can help.

Sharky is a gangly pre-teen 12. He was a bit mouthy in the car last week. I asked, “What is wrong with you the last few days? Why are you being such a smart [mouth]?”

He said with a sigh, “I think my pheromones are coming in.” Say what?
Definition (via – those Greeks knew everything):

Pheromones are naturally occurring odorless substances the fertile body excretes externally, conveying an airborne signal that provides information to, and triggers responses from, the opposite sex of the same species.
Well, Amen! Sharky’s airborne signals trigger a response for sure, like my hand across his behind.

Since he was so in tune with “pretty is as pretty does,” I decided to interview him for this theory. I used my cell phone voice recorder. This is the exact transcript:
Bug: When I say, “There is no such thing as natural beauty, what does that mean to you?”

Sharky: You can’t just grow up to be beautiful. You have to transfooorm.

Bug: What else

Sharky: That’s all I know.

B: What else? What do you mean transform?

S: You have to process through it.
B: Through what?

S: Stages.

B: Stages of what?
S: Stuff. Physical. Mental.

B: When you say process through stages, what do you mean?
S: You have to process through them to become a real person. Turn this off!

B: Nobody’s going to hear this but me. [Bazinga!] Do you mean a child is not a real person?

S: No, you process to become an adult and have a good life.

B: In my article, I’m writing about physical, mental, and spiritual beauty. What do you have to do to become physically beautiful?
S: Moisturize.

B: What do you have to do to become emotionally beautiful?
S: You think on the bright side. You decide you are pretty.

B: I like that. What can you do to be mentally beautiful? Academically? What can you do to become a beautiful thinker?
S: That’s not my sort of subject. You’re gonna have to ask a girl on that one.

B: What about spiritually beautiful?
S: Hmmm. I tell you what, boys and girls, that’s a tough one.

B: What does spiritual mean?
S: You’re gonna have to go with a girl on that one, too. Ask God if you are pretty?

That is right, Sharky! And I know exactly what God will say.

Readers, that brings us to another spiritual topic, inspired by Flower Child, “Elaine,” Red Hot Backspace, Delicious, Bop, Dogwood Deb, and many others. Join me next week for Theory 40: Contributors are happier than consumers.
Spring in East Tennessee defines "Natural Beauty." I took these photos either in the mountains, on The Crippled Beagle Farm, or in my Glen Cove yard. Enjoy their natural (supernatural) beauty. Happy spring!

See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn.
~ ~ ~

Let's talk! Find me and friend me and please post any time.

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Theory 38: Orthopedic bras aren't sexy. Part DDDD, then H, then J

In Part I of Theory 38: Orthopedic bras aren't sexy, I introduce my girls, “Atlantic” and “Pacific” and explain the cone-undrums they cause. Basically, it’s impossible to find a comfortable, functional sports bra, formal dress, or even an every day working mother unmentionable that looks feminine and covers and holds me up.

Let’s not even talk about bathing suits. Swimsuit shopping is its own special dose of Helk. I promise you, those labels that say D are cruel, expensive bait for my manatees. Once, in Panama City Beach, Delicious took me to a massive neon shop whose sign assured, “1,000,000 swimsuits” and something like “a swimsuit for everyone.” I followed Delicious into that shop with confidence and, after dozens of humiliating attempts to marshal my marshmallows, I followed Delicious out in tears. I was young. Now that I’m forty, I don’t really bother. I find the biggest, most expensive black suit Land's End sells and squeeze into it. It's hot. Then I cover cleavage with a drapey coverup. It's hot. A couple of springtimes and mixed drinks ago, my buddy "Pistachio True" convinced me to accompany her to the swimsuit section of Dillard’s. I call her Pistachio True because she loves to crack pistachios while she watches her adored son play baseball. I call her True because she is the most devoted wife, mother, aunt, and friend I think I’ve ever met. Quite a character, she’s perfectly nutty and hard to crack. She's tough, genuine, and 100% authentic. On top of all that, Pistachio True is a shopping genius—efficient, frugal, and fashionable. She would NEVER wear Crocs and Capri’s like many of my teacher friends. I usually shop alone, since things can get ugly, but I trust her judgment, so when she pleaded, I caved. She was confident she could find a swimsuit for me. You see, though I’m confident, I am still modest. I don't like to shop with other women and despise locker rooms. People are always telling me when I complain, “Oh, your boobs don’t look that big to me.” That’s because I wear undercover harnesses and “squeezers” (Red Hot’s daughter Suspenders’ term for tight fitting camisoles). I knew Pistacio True couldn’t find me bathing suit, so my goal at Dillard’s that day was to make sure she at least got a good show for her kind efforts.

~ ~ ~

Flashback: Delicious once donned a new navy and turquoise swirled one-piece with a love apron that swept across her privates and thighs. For someone who shops in the Women’s Departments, she loves to try on clothes.
Anyway, she modeled for me, turning sideways, and asked, “Bug, tell the truth. What do I look like in this one?”

I said, “Hmmm. From the side? A capital D.”

~ ~ ~

Alright, back to the "Bug and Pistaccio True Seek a Swimsuit Show."
Sales lady: "May I help you?"
Bug, loudly for all to hear: "YES! I want to try on the biggest booby swimsuits you have. All of them! I wear 34 DDDD. That's FOUR D's. Do you have any 34DDDD bathing suits with skirts or board shorts hooked on?”

"Also, I want a colorful, 34DDDD swimsuit. Why are all the “big girl” swimsuits black or blue? Why can’t we wear hot pink or red? I may be fat up top but I am still outgoing and girly and flashy. That’s color-ism or fat-ism or boob-ism, don’t you think?"

Pistachio True and the sales rep brought me suits that they just KNEW would fit. I put them on, and watched in delight (I love being right) as they gasped. Spatial reasoning is crucial when selecting swimsuits to cover large ground. Pistachio must wear out Map Quest because she only found one TANKini that came close. She was much more competent than the sales rep. Years of practice? The colorful blue, black, and---yippee---brown and pink suit did cover, but the support was minimal. I bought the top (already had black bloomers) and bragged on her successful efforts. But I made sure she understood that Atlantic and Pacific were still loosey goosey. I always feel loose and exposed in bathing suits, though. Remember, my bras are vices (no stretching, with lots of rods and wires). I just don’t understanding why manufacturers don’t build suits around bras. Ugh. I did some spirited jumping jacks and ran in place for a bit to show Pistaccio just how hard my boob-life is. I wanted pity from my dear friend. She obliged and we still laugh about that adventure. 

Last summer, I wore a swimsuit four times. Heck, just the process of getting it on is a nightmare that requires the following tools:

elbow room
baby powder
Bota Box

Even at Disneyworld, where fat tourists whose counties don’t recognize the merits of deodorant and razors abound, and I should have felt beautiful, but I felt gross. When we scheduled the trip, I freaked when I realized I had to visit Typhoon Lagoon. I had two choices:
1. Wear shorts and a t-shirt and look like a holy roller—those girls with really long hair who scuffle around in heavy denim skirts and swim in long shorts and socks? (Holler, Pigeon Forge buddies, you know what I’m talking about.)
2. Suck it up, batten A and P down and physically participate in my son Sharky’s life.

You see, we visited Disneyworld with Sharky’s baseball team. The boys are 11 and 12 and I was 39, wearing a 34J. They’ve all seen the school video “Changes,” but I didn’t think they were ready to go eye-to-eye with Atlantic and Pacific. Not yet. One of Sharky’s basketball teammates recently told him, “Your mama is hot.” Yikes! I never should have bought him those Skittles. He totally got the wrong idea. Anyway, back to Orlando, where a secret equator that’s more grid than circle steams up parking lots and underwire bras. I had an epiphany: a voice said, wear your bra under your swimsuit. Amen! I had a swimsuit that was black and brown with wide straps that covered my bra. Great! My girls were contained and Houston’s temmates saw no cleavage. They battled the wave pool in innocence without being visually assaulted by my Mountain Oceans. The only problem happened late that night when I couldn’t find my bra. We tore apart Room 305 of Caribbean Beach Resort looking for it, until I realized I still had it on under my swimsuit. Valuable they are, these strong, pricey boulder-holders. For me, they are practically impossible to replace.

So, readers, we’ve established that bra shopping (and wearing) for someone my size was a hot, sweaty, painful, humiliating, expensive, typically hopeless experience. Until. Until the Classy Lady ladies told me about “The Bra Lady” in Fountain City. No, I didn’t nickname her. (Note: You can’t sue for slander if everything is true.) I didn’t nickname her because her name is perfect. I feel another Theory coming on: God names people for their life missions. It’s not an original idea, I’m sure. I’m reading the third part of The Giver right now. In The Messenger main character Matty’s futuristic, yet primitive society, villagers are given “True Names” based on their spiritual, academic, artistic, or physical giftedness.

Well, The Bra Lady is all these things, and her name is true; it suits her talents and her age. Her name is……….. Illa Brawdy! Yep. BRAwdy. BRA is in her name, ya’ll! How about that? And, how about that first name, “Illa?” She’s the only Illa I’ve ever met. She is unique. Plus, BRAwdy is her married name. Do you think she was so helk-bent on a career of harnessing women parts that she pursued Mr. Brawdy for his surname, or, do you think the romantic stars aligned so that big-busted women of East Tennessee could remember whom to call if they lost that promising pale pink business card?

I made the call. Her honeysuckled voice reassured me over the phone. I couldn’t wait for relief!

Finally, the day came. Sharky and I drove north to Fountain City and pulled off a busy main road up a steep driveway into Illa Brawdy’s place of business, B & G Shop. I think the letters stand for Brassiere and Girdle, which should indicate her business’s founding date. Mrs. Brawdy fashioned a business out of her basement. Cats greeted Sharky and me as we opened the basement door. Mrs. Brawdy instructed Sharky, “Go pet the kitty-cats while I help mama.”

I instantly recognized I was in the presence of greatness. Can’t you just sense it when you are with someone who is great at what he or she does? Mrs. Brawdy is to bras and Dolly Parton is to song-writing. Brawdy is to bra-fitting as my dear Agape Agave is to margarita-mixing. I wanted her to rock me in her basement rocking chair and tell me everything would be alright. I completely trusted her. Immediately.

She had blonde, sprayed curls atop her head. She must use a pick to perfection. Everything was under control. She wore a thin, dressy blouse tucked into slacks with a wide belt cinching her petite frame. Her breasts shot straight out, parts parallel to the lineoleum. I immediately thought of my childhood friend’s mother (I mentioned her in the first lines of Part I). Let’s call her “PF Classic.” PF Classic exudes feminine strenth and confidence. Her sophisticated, yet mountain-woman dialect sprinkles colloquial color to conversations. She is smart and wears pants suits. Her platinum curly hair, lit up her face. Her tiny waist reminded me of early Dolly Parton album covers. Her big “girls” were well-contained and supported, but prominent. It was hard not to look at them. She was a glimpse of what my future may be and she was quite reassuring. Inspiring, really. As a teenager, already known and harassed for my early development, I saw hope through her. I admired the confidence in which she carried herself and her parts. Brawdy had similar breasts and a similar aura.

Brawdy took me behind a home-made curtain to a tiny room and whipped out a measuring tape. Her aged-thin hands fluttered across my chest in a mathematical, mumbling fury. She measured jotted numbers onto index cards, measured, jotted, measured jotted…. Then she announced, “Okay, let’s try on some bras.” She asked, “What do you need your bra to do?”

I said, “I need support for my heavy breasts. I also want relief on my shoulders and I hate when the back of the bra slides up.”

Mrs. Brawdy said, “Alrighty. I have JUST the bra that will do that job!” She left me hanging for a bit, and then returned with a beige get-up and explained, “Okay, dear, this will do the trick.”

I looked at the thing and said, “There are no underwires. I need underwires.”

She explained, “No, you don’t, you just need a well-made bra. This here is a suspension bra. It is made so that all the work and weight are balanced throughout the garment. Right now, your poor shoulders are doing all the work. That’s why your neck hurts and you have the indentions. Trust me.”

Honest to God. I quickly realized I needed help to put the thing on. There I stood, in a closet in Fountain City, surrounded by cats and curtains and baskets of bras (oh, and soap operas played on the basement den TV), when the elderly expert Illa Brawdy asked, “Sweetheart, do you mind if I touch your breasts?”

“I don’t mind.”

Like a sick child needing a nightgown, I stuck my arms into the air and let her dress me. She slid the straps over my lily-white arms and scurried around to my back side. She instructed, “Okay, hold this back clasp together for me.” She scurried around to my front side. She literally picked up Atlantic and dropped her into her new cup home. She then picked up Pacific and dropped her into her new cup home. Plop, plop. She clasped the back and said, “Now, bend over and jiggle to get things in place.” I bent and jiggled. She stuffed, tucked, and tugged. She said, “Turn around and look in the mirror. What do you think?”

Well, in one fitting, I’d gone from soft serve in large cups to vanilla scoops in sugar cones. Wow! I’ll give Brawdy this much: I looked 20 pounds lighter and 10 years younger (physically) in that bra. I saw someone I knew in the mirror and said, “I look just like a lady named [PF Classic] I grew up with. So funny!”

Brawdy excitedly said, “Yes you do, because she’s my client and this is the exact same bra and SIZE that she wears! What a neat coincidence.”


My humored heart sank. That wasn’t my goal. PF Classic was close to seventy-years old, and while she looked great, I was in my early thirties and wanted modern boobs, not classic ones. Though I felt fancy FREE (the suspension bra was awesome), I was disappointed. A and P looked like something engineered at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. They could cause a war or stop one at that “point.”  I wanted soft, rounded breasts that were high and perky and sexy, too. The Golden Gate Bridge bra covered every millimeter of my breasts. I voiced my concern to Brawdy.

She said, “Sweetheart, you need different bras for different reasons.” Here came the cross-sell. She continued, “This is your working girl bra. You wear this when you need support for long hours and want to look thin and fit. I don’t mind a little sugar showing sometimes. Let’s find you a romantic piece.”

Back to the bins she went. One hour and one hundred and forty dollars later, I left, exhausted and a bit sore, with Golden Gate and a black t-shirt bra and a new sense of confident freedom. But, that didn’t last long. Once I got out of The Bra Lady’s basement and spell, I felt super self-conscious in the Golden Gate. I ended up selling it on EBay a year later.

That whole experience was somewhat medical, somewhat spiritual, somewhat comical, NOT sensual, and almost indescribable.

~ ~ ~

Delicious—maybe five years ago—spotted a diamond in the rough bins at Dillard’s—a gem of a bra, manufactured in France. She found the prize egg, really, a 34DDDD Chantelle bra that not only fit me, but also minimized me. Wuv. Twu Wuv. I cut the tag out of that bra and kept it in my wallet with papers so important I had to keep them ON me at all times (teaching license, adoption approval letter, Delicious’s prescription list). Since then, I've ordered those bras online. Online shopping for lingerie in my size is utilitarian and efficient.

But, last month, my cups overflowed to the breaking point.

These bras were pricey, and usually stuck me for around $90, so I ordered them infrequently. Well, around Christmas, as I frantically decorated, I grazed an old nail sticking out of the wall and ripped a hole in Pacific’s black lace cup. The levy broke. A and P are hard enough to contain without holes in the netting. Think buttered biscuits in a minnow trap. I thought, Great. More expense at the most expensive time of year. Yay me. I informed Tall Child that he was financing a new dam/bra/trap for me as a Christmas present. I huffed and puffed and searched through cyberspace only to be met by a grievous realization; like all perfect lipstick shades, or diet foods that taste good and work, my Chantelle Style 37?1 34DDDD was discontinued. Tragic. Now I had to go on a physical search and locate a new bra. Double miserable whammy. Duct tape and winter layers got me through Christmas. Finally, on a rare February weekend morning when Sharky had no ballgames, I ventured out to the mall for a bra hunt.

Two hours and seventy attempts later, I left with a $68 34H that barely fit and an epiphany: it is time to say goodbye to A and P. I'd hit the ocean wall. The following Monday, I called a plastic surgeon and set an appointment to discuss breast reduction. I told Agape Agave about it, and she said, “Oh, no, Bug, this makes me sad. You are our personal Dolly.” That makes me sad. A and P are a huge part of my identity. But I hurt. I am weary. I am ready to lay down this load. The surgery is scheduled, but I am a nervous wreck for many reasons. Shallow? Maybe? My number one concerned is that I’ll have freak out and feel like parts of me are missing, in a bad way. Also, I’ll no longer have my #1 excuse for not exercising and not wearing a bathing suit. Plus, folks won't compare me to my hero anymore.

One of my many Dolly albums.

Plastic surgery ... aesthetics ... pieces ... parts ... construction ... lifting ... all these terms remind me of Theory 39, which was actually coined by my grandmother, Buddy, back when I was a teenager and none of these terms applied to me just yet. Ah, but they do now. Visit next Friday for Theory 39: There is no such thing as naturalbeauty. 

“Hang”in there, readers. See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.
~ ~ ~
Like what you read?
You'll LOVE my book of fleshed out, ramped up,
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From the back cover


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Friday, April 11, 2014

Theory 38: Orthopedic bras aren’t sexy.

One of my dearest childhood friends’ daddy once joked that “light blondes with big breasts are more fun in the dark.” Maybe for him. Not for his wife. I can vouch for her. Though Forty is the perfect age, forty-year-old parts aren’t too perfect at all. Some things look better standing up than lying down. Some parts require special attention and equipment, as in orthopedic equipment. I wrote about how “well-endowed” girls suffer harassment and are often misunderstood in Theory 4: Don't judge a woman by her accent or her breast size. Even in my book, The Eye of Adoption, I confessed that I keep my big ol’ brassiere right by my bed. Here is the passage (regarding my quest for the perfect home and my habit of neurotic planning):

            As a new wife and habitual worrier planning a three-child family, I desired a safer, more convenient location in which to raise my family. My must-haves were much more specific than Jeff’s: in my search, I combined my future children’s needs and my desire to re-create my best childhood memories. I thought through the details and played out all kinds of scenarios. My children needed to grow up close to a hospital. All the bedrooms had to be together so, in case of fire, I could grab my bra (The Red Cross does not usually get my size over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders in their donation bags) and my children and “head for the pines” for safety.
I nickname everyone and everything. Two giant Tulip Poplars (our Tennessee state tree) stand guard in our front yard. Their names are [Bug] and [Tall Child]. Houston’s first crush is honored in the back yard via “Ellie C. the Peach Tree.” My “girls?” Of course I named them! They are part of my being, my history, my personality, my struggles and triumphs, and, most of all, my body-is-a-wonderland geography. Thus, they are named “Atlantic” and “Pacific” (referred to here as A and P). These names give merit to their vastness, their weight, their volume, and the fact that it is absolutely impossible to harness them. And, I mean HARNESS. Because that’s what my bras feel like: over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders that are almost NEVER comfortable. Just the words for the components sound awful: boning, straps, wire, netting, hooks and eyes, spiral metal, extenders, and separators.
I’ve dealt with A and P all my life, and I’ve coped fairly well.  Maybe that's because I grew up in the sweet shadow of my hero, Dolly Parton. We come from the same place in East Tennessee. I've met her. Her daddy gave me a quarter. I went to elementary school with her niece and nephew. We both played instruments in our high school marching bands. I just have no musical talent. We have similar personalities and attributes.  She's a writer. She's salt-of-the earth, she tells it like it is. She has mountain woman sensibility, confidence, and independence. She is open. She's one of the greatest people who has ever lived. I love Dolly.
Anyway, every few years (yes) I "gird up my loins" (that means "work up the nerve" for all you heathens) to shop for a new bra. Bra shopping sucks. Especially when you want to feel pretty but wear orthopedic underwear. Once, back when I exercised, I searched for a sports bra. The department store sales lady called me “honey”—all sales ladies eventually call me “honey” in a pitiful tone—as she raked through racks for my rack. Finally, she proudly exclaimed. “I think this one will work! The material was engineered by NASA!” No joke. NASA was credited on the label. I bought it and wore it OVER my regular bra as I paced Lakeshore Park’s two-mile path and worked in my yard. Ever raked in a life jacket? Try it sometime. Speaking of life jackets, I can’t zip them. I’m better off looping my arms through the nylon straps of a boat seat cushion, Ninja Turtle style.

Here’s the deal. Big breasts are HEAVY. They are much heavier than fat. The straps, no matter how wide, wear grooves into your shoulders. The groove left by a bra strap is a pinkish red, permanent indention with obvious ridges, or as we say in the hollers, banks.  And sweat collects there. In summer, there’s a sweat flood. Think A River Runs Through It. So, let’s call my not-so-groovy grooves “Tennessee” and “Mississippi.” Tote that barge, lift that bale, wear my bra and you’ll think you’re in jail. You get the picture? Maybe I should get tattoos of my boys fishing off the banks with cane poles and night crawlers. Gnome on one shoulder, Sharky on the other? I could do a whole Tennessee theme with Irises, Rainbow Trout, and Mockingbirds.

Once, I had to go to a fancy party that Dogwood Deb co-chaired. I was happy to support her efforts as a loving, tireless fundraiser, but I was worried sick about one monumental task: finding a formal dress that modestly covered and held up my “top” for under $200, in under two weeks’ time. Delicious and I literally visited every formal dress shop in Knoxville, TN. At every shop, I heard and saw myself (you know, like in an out-of-body-experience) say to the workers, “Ya’ll don’t understand. Big breasts are heavy. Please don’t tell me to ‘just wear a strapless bra. If NASA can’t design me a sports bra, what on Earth [pun intended] makes you think Playtex can design a successful strapless one?” Oh, and folks, please don’t tell a mid-sized woman to go to Lane Bryant for a bra. I basically need 34-inch vice with giant J cups. Though, when I did go to Lane Bryant, they totally understood me and didn’t call me “honey.”

In a last ditch effort visit to an old Knoxville standby fancy shop, a miracle finally occurred. A hot pink FUSCHIA bright dress with a wide, layered, floor length skirt magically appeared at none other than Classy Lady. Whoooop! The dress was loud, but its levies channeled Atlantic and Pacific with adequate modesty. For $150. Sold American! Hallelujah!

In my two weeks of dress shopping helk, at my last and thankfully successful stop, the clerk sympathetically advised me, “Honey, I think you should go see the ‘Bra Lady’ up in Fountain City.”

“What? Who’s that?” I asked.

All the clerks circled around me. They nodded, smiled as though “There’s hope for you yet” was tattooed on their foreheads, and practically chanted,

Bra Lady, Bra Lady,
Fountain City, Halls.
She can work magic,
With your bowling balls!

The Classy Lady lady handed me a pale pink home-made business card.  For the first time in a long time, I saw a light at the end of two long, long tunnels. Just holding The Bra Lady's business card in my hand, I perked up. And, her name, oh, ya'll. It is perfect. I couldn’t nickname her better if I tried. The Bra Lady’s real name indicates providence, divine intervention, a “bigger plan.”
Her name is………her name is........drum roll…………………………….

Hmmmm. I think I’ll tell you next week, in Theory 38: Orthopedic Bras Aren’t Sexy,Part DDDD, then H, then J


“Hang” in there, readers. See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.
~ ~ ~

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Theory 37: Women become their mothers, whether they like it or not.

This theory first came to me at my mother-in-law Bop’s house in Nashville. It was Christmas time (you know ladies, the MOST stressful time of year when men should do as they are told). Bop has a small U-shaped kitchen in her Cape Code style, perfectly sized for retirees house. She loves to host gatherings and always employs her poised daughter (Tall Child’s younger sister), Dogwood Debutante in her entertaining endeavors. I guess that since I’m female and Southern, I’m supposed to help slice ham, pour water into Waterford, and set heavy silver onto polished wood. Boring. Anyway, Tall Child and I sat in the living room that December day and he coached me to “go in the kitchen and help Bop.”

I said, “I’m not sure there’s room in there for me.” Instead, I poured a glass of wine, perched on the back of a club chair, and observed a mother-daughter kitchen dance choreographed over many years to perfection. Bop and Dogwood Deb worked like two ballerinas in a music box. They somehow circled, scooted, and slid around each other without dropping a single teaspoon or sloshing hot butter beans over the edges of a footed serving bowl.

They were not just partners. No, they were one being, and I was being out of the way. Christmas means high-stakes entertaining. Had I tried to “help” I could have jacked up the smooth, synchronized sequence. I would have been the primary colored Happy Meal toy whose angles were all wrong, whose lack of grace would have wedged between gliding pastel twirling aprons. Why, I might have capsized the gravy boat or worse, spilled my wine!

I wondered how they could be such a dynamic duo in that kitchen, and then realized, they are “one” because Dogwood Deb is morphing into Bop. Then I thought, “Am I morphing into Delicious? Naaaaah, I am too much like my daddy.”

I asked Sharky as he rode shotgun inBig Red on the way to school one day last week, “How am I like Grandmama?”

He said, “Dra. Ma.” He’s referring to the way in which Delicous and I take normal situations and make them urgent, frightening, and stressful. Cousin Fuzz calls it the “Delicious and Big Booty J Effect.” Think Doppler Effect. Let me explain (read this as quickly as you can for the best experience):

What is the Doppler Effect?
The Doppler effect is observed whenever the source of waves is moving with respect to an observer. The Doppler effect can be described as the effect produced by a moving source of waves in which there is an apparent upward shift in frequency for observers towards whom the source is approaching and an apparent downward shift in frequency for observers from whom the source is receding. It is important to note that the effect does not result because of an actual change in the frequency of the source. Using the example above [a bug kicking its legs in water], the bug is still producing disturbances at a rate of 2 disturbances per second; it just appears to the observer whom the bug is approaching that the disturbances are being produced at a frequency greater than 2 disturbances/second. The effect is only observed because the distance between observer B and the bug (me) is decreasing and the distance between observer A and the bug is increasing.

If you think I actually wrote that, I am honored, but I copied and pasted (my students are proficient plagiarizers). Source? I found it in one of everybody’s favorite hangouts—

In laymen’s terms, basically, when Bug asks/does/proposes anything, The Delicious and BBJ/Dopper-like Effect creates a disturbance in the holler based off paranoia and anxiety. It’s a family trait prominent on our Catlettsburg, TN compound. For example, I once said, “I think I’ll go visit cousin Bags in Florida.”
To which Delicious scolded, “Oh, no, you won’t. Bug, you’ll get raped at every rest stop.”

The Delicious and Big Booty J Doppler Effect - Moments away, ya'll, moments away.

Sharky also said, “You and Grandmama both think you have P.D.H.’s and can diagnose diseases.”
I corrected him, so Delicous-ly, “Sharky, you mean Ph. D., and yes, I take pride in my expertise in autism and anxiety disorders. You just wait. I am on the cusp of a great discovery in clotting problems.”

Finally he said, “Oh, and Mama, you and Grandmama are terrible drivers.” Geez. True. Delicious pretty much punctuates every sentence with her brake pedal.
I admit it. Big Red and I played Pigeon Forge bumper cars TWICE in one week. I sweet-talked my way out of all that insurance mess, thankfully. Or did my victims see my brush guard and think they’d have to spend money or feel sorry for me? Whatever. Whew!

Big Reds - Junior and Senior. Check out the parking work and
examine closely for a special greeting.

~ ~ ~

My sweet, athletic, sincere friend, Wine Box Out, lost her mother years ago. I asked her about the loss one time, and she said, “My mother was my life.” I feel the same way. I love and adore and need Delicious to a fault. But, I’m not going to lie. There were things she did growing up that really bugged this Bug and I made silent vows not to repeat history.
Never heard of a “silent vow?” Let me explain:

Months ago, Red Hot Backspace and I attended a marriage class. Yes, together. She’s divorced and did you really think Tall Child would go to a marriage class? I tried. I asked him to go with me, and he said, “No thanks. I hate school and I’m the ideal husband.”
I conceded on one of those counts and didn’t press further. I think that makes me the ideal wife! Oh well, someone had to stay with Gnome and Sharky, anyway. After my and Red Hot’s first class, Tall Child asked, “How was marriage class?”

I answered, “Interesting. Do you want to know all the things you do wrong?”
He said, “Nah. I’m good.”

Anyway, in the class, the teacher-preacher said that we should never make silent vows because we are setting parameters that God can and may want to change. We shouldn’t limit or fight destiny, right? Ladies, are we destined to become our mothers, no matter how we fight? Maybe.

Growing up, I made the following silent vows:

VOW 1: “I will never cut all my hair off just because I’m getting older.”
Delicious says that once a woman gets a certain age, she needs to cut off all her hair because “long, stringy hair makes women look old and tired.”

Then: In high school, I made Delicious late for work because I had to perfect my bangs. You know the drill: One Conair roll up, one Conair roll down, pick, spray. Dang! Cry. Throw a fit. Do over. Delicious bought me highlights and perms. I even got into making Gatlinburg-Pittman High School blue and gold barrettes to sell to classmates (I’m a natural-born hustler).
Now: If I get hot, I get a haircut. If I’m in Alabama, Florida, Nashville, wherever, and I notice my shaggy bangs or what Delicious calls my “dog ears” I get a haircut. I just stop at a cheapo place like Great Clips or Supercuts. No more tantrums, just $12.00 and some White Rain and I’m content. During the school year, I hit my favorite salon, Ross and Co. to see my top stylist, California Dreamin’. I chose her to be my top stylist because her son played baseball with Sharky, she’s a friend, and she’s right beside my school. Bonus: She IS GREAT at her work. Whew! I just tell her, “Cut my hair so I don’t have to fix it. I like it wavy and loose so I can floof it up and not look so old and tired. You know, when you get a certain age you just can’t have long stringy hair.” Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Who said that!?!

Red Hot Backspace admits, “I have to try really hard not to wear my hair like my mother’s.”
Geez. I’ve also started over-spraying and over dying for big events. Just. Like. Delicious.

VOW 2: “I will keep my house really neat.” This vow could should expanded to, “I will keep my house really neat so I can find the scissors.”
Once, my daddy, Pooh, asked Delicious, “Are you EVER going to fold those clothes?”

Delicious answered, “Pooh, are you EVER going to fold those clothes?”
Delicious always told me that housework was the “last thing on her list” and she “had her priorities straight.” Yep. Pooh was #1. I was #2. We never had to seek out her attention or energy. My grandmama lived high on a cedar-stacked hill facing the Crippled Beagle Farm. She told us that often, when Delicious hollered, “Pooooooh/Buuuuug, where are youuuuuuuuuu?” the sweet, longingly bellowed calls floated “over the river and through the woods,” up the cow field to her porch.  My daddy and I both valued and value, respectively, the relief of solitude, but Delicious want to be up close because she was interested in every little thing we said or did. Daddy and I hiked all over our 72 acre farm, sometimes at the same time, but, remarkably, never crossed paths in those woods and never escaped the doting clutches of Delicious. She may not be a good mopper, but Delicious is a dang fine tracker.

Then: My bedroom, my dorm room, my first apartments, my first house were always tidy. I took great pride in keeping neat quarters. I wanted to be able to find the scissors.
Now: It’s been coming for some time. Tall Child and I used to boycott. Feeling overwhelmed by the supposed imbalance of our chore lists, we staged these ridiculous domestic stand-offs where one of us would say, “That’s it! I am boycotting for two weeks.” The boycotter would do none of his/her chores so the dirt, laundry, dust, and to-do's would pile into an obvious “look who suffers and contributes the most” stack. I felt a boycott coming on last week, but this time, I channeled my inner Delicious (who is growing stronger by the day) and said nothing. I simply QUIT. Now, I plan to put my priorities in order #1 Tall Child, #2 Sharky and Gnome, #3 friends…

I took a page from my teaching buddy, “Sugar Bear,” who inspired me with his efficiency. Sugar Bear has a Ph. D. in something (oceanography?) and is a devoted husband and father.  I complimented him on his uber-professional junior high work attire one Monday morning, and he said, “I always wear a tie on Mondays. Every Sunday when I get home from our worship service, I lay my church clothes out on the chair in my bedroom for Monday. This method allows me to sleep another ten minutes and save money on laundering.” God first. Laundry second. Amen, Sugar Bear!

VOW 3: “I won’t talk to strangers all the time.”
Most of the time when we went shopping to malls, the expedition was focused on finding “slacks and blouses” for Delicious and my aunt, Big Booty J. They loved Women’s Departments. I was miserable, so Delicious bought me a Sweet Valley High book as soon as we arrived and I perched in those club chairs by the tri-fold mirrors to read while she and BBJ tried on one thousand shirts that all looked basically the same, except for the ones with necklaces attached. Those were special.

Then: Those days were rough, but survivable thanks to Morrison’s Cafeteria macaroni, rolls, and Jell-O and the adventures of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. What really stunk was when I had to try on blouses and slacks or, heaven forbid, swimsuits. Not only did I have to say “Don’t look, don’t look” to Delicious, who came in every dressing room to "protect me from perverts." I also had to endure the critique from sales people. You see, as soon as we walked into the store, some nice clerk would say, “May I help you?” I liked to say, “No, thanks. I’m just browsing, and suffer through swimsuit season in solitude.” Delicious, on the other hand, would say, “YES! My daughter Bug is going to a fancy party with her friends! She needs a dress. Will you help us find one?” Torture for a teenager, worse for a college co-ed. Though the goal was apparel, Delicious ALWAYS found a way to say, “Bug is in the UT band.” She was so proud. Good thing she didn’t go on road trips. Pride comes before the fall. An SEC football fall on seven band buses. Yeah, baby.
Now: Now I get it! Delicious wasn’t overly friendly, she was BUSY. I am a working mother of two. I don’t have time to browse for a blouse. Remember, I am working on a uniform concept for myself. Anyway, I hadn’t bought a bra in about three years. Mine are expensive, hard to break in, and particularly hard to find. Think Golden Gate Bridge made with lace and panels with a stupid bow in the middle. Really? When you wear a 34J, the bow looks like a gnat in a hayfield.  So last month I walked into Dillard’s department store. A poor, unsuspecting clerk soon greeted, “May I help you?”

I said, “Probably not, but I want you to try your best. I was in the UT Band and I have huge boobs. Can you to help me find every 34H and up in this lingerie section?

Which brings us to next week’s Theory 38: Orthopedic brasaren’t sexy. In honor of Delicious, I think I’ll whip through Chick-fil-A for a sweet tea with extra, extra ice and lemon and start writing that one with a Paper Mate Gel pen on the back of a Home Federal Bank deposit envelope. I love you, Mama. Thanks for the love, wisdom, and boobs.

See you next post! Until then, be good to your mama if you are lucky enough to still have her, and think outside the barn.

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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